Life Lessons from Parks and Rec

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Over the last few weeks I have gone through 6 seasons of Parks and Recreation. That sounds like a lot and it is, but I’ve had a lot of time on my hands and also I am capable of watching an incredible amount of a show when the mood strikes me. There is one (short) season remaining and I could watch it on Hulu but probably I’ll wait till it comes to Netflix so I can pretend for a while longer that I’m not done.

I seriously love this show. It makes me feel good about life. It is a show that is primarily sweet instead of cynical and there are not many of those. Especially not many that I watch. I also love how many women it has and amazing female friendships and just… everything is great. It is all awesome.

But I did not decide to write a blog entry just generally praising Parks and Rec. I’m pretty sure that most people are on that train already. What I’ve been thinking about is Leslie Knope.

Leslie is the lead character in Parks and Rec, played amazingly by Amy Poehler. She is goofy and zany and perhaps a little bit crazy. She is also incredibly loyal and smart and ridiculously talented at her job and one of the best gift givers I have ever seen. I love Leslie. She makes me feel good to watch because she is amazing but also because watching her makes me feel like you can be amazing and also not perfect.

Leslie is absolutely not perfect. She freezes when she’s nervous and says stupid things (although of course her stupid things are much funnier than those of us who are NOT comedians ever get to say); she gets so excited about her ideas that she sometimes steamrolls right over her best friend Ann, just because Ann is too sweet to say no; she cannot let things go EVER; she is so fiercely competitive that she has sometimes hurt her own causes or people she loves just because she needs to win; and sometimes because she loves presents so much, she completely overwhelms people and ignores what they might really want or need to drown them in presents.

I do not relate to all of those flaws, but I relate to some of them. Honestly, even if Leslie was not much like me at all, I would still feel better watching her character. The point is not her specific flaws but the fact that she has them at all. Generally female characters who are “crazy” are only crazy. That is their entire personality trait. They are insane and useless in the midst of that. Leslie has weird quirks that are arguably a bit crazy, and sometimes make her hard to be around. Just like the rest of us. But to the people who love her, they know that she is an amazing friend and that all the rest of it is just part of the package. She grows and she changes, she learns to mitigate her stronger destructive impulses and, as she does, more of her constructive impulses come through.

I grew up with a lot of destructive impulses. It has taken a lot of years to sort through and discover what even was destructive and what was important. I’ve made a lot of progress. But one of the things that can make me feel the most hopeless is feeling like I need to get rid of all of it to be lovable. Like I am never going to not be a little bit crazy. I am always going to be a bit high maintenance of a friend or lover. I will never be able to be just completely chill about things. I wish I could be and I work really hard on that but I always fail.

But when I see a character like Leslie Knope, I feel better about myself. Maybe it’s not important to be perfect. Maybe the point isn’t to make sure that no one else has to deal with your mess. Maybe the goal is to just be as awesome as you can possibly be and keep working on the rest. The people who love you will love all of you, even if some of it is still a little messy.

So thank you, Amy Poehler! I will now proceed to maybe just watch through Parks and Rec over and over again for the rest of my life. I may or may not be joking.

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